Saturday 28th September 2019 is race day for the Autumn Run 10K and Half Marathon in Milton Keynes. I’ll be running in the half marathon event and have put together a blog for the runners who are preparing for these races. This will be useful for anyone going into the final week of training for a long distance event too.

Training for your first race or a PB attempt takes up a lot of time, commitment and sacrifice.

This is why it’s important to ensure that you put yourself in the best position possible on race day to have the run you and your training deserves.

In the week leading up to race day, the actions you take, may be the difference between achieving your target or not.

Here are a list of things I like to focus on building up to my target race.

Sleep

  • Getting enough zzz’s in the week leading up to race day is just as important as enough sleep the night before. Nerves usually also get the better of the night before, so I try to go to bed a little earlier each night to ensure I’m well rested on race day
  • It is suggested we get 6 – 9 hours sleep a night and sleep deprivation can have negative effects by slowing down reactions, weaker immune functioning and slower recovery times. Tuck yourself up early in the lead up to your race!   

Food

  • Nutrition is very important for runners. And it’s essential to make informed choices on what we eat in the final few days.
  • Stick with a similar routine based on what you’ve practiced in previous weeks. Pasta and even pizza are popular choices the night before – but again, eat what you have previously had before your long runs.
  • Carb-loading is a fun term that people like to use before a race. Don’t go crazy by eating carbs all week. For a half marathon, I ensure I eat the same portions sizes in the lead up to my big race, but increase the carbohydrate content within the meals.
  • Carb-loading is used to help boost glycogen levels, which is the energy available to you on race day.
  • The average human body can store around 350-500g of glycogen so all the extra carbs you eat won’t be useful and actually make you feel a little sluggish and/or heavy.  

Training

  • Ensuring you don’t overtrain in the lead up to race week again can be a final factor in order to get the best performance on the day
  • You can keep the frequency of your training at around 60-70% of your normal week, but look to reduce the intensity of it instead. I know it can be hard to taper and you feel like you should be outdoors lots, but sometimes less is more. Keep your runs at an easy pace, watch your heart rate and don’t put any further stresses on your body.
  • Although it’s sensible to reduce intensity, some athletes like to add some race-pace effort intervals into their sessions earlier in the week to practice what this pace feels like. Add in some rest periods in-between to ensure appropriate recovery.  
  • Another idea to reduce the intensity is to cross train. Swimming, cycling or light cross training will create less resistance on the body.
  • Avoid any high intensity or weighted workouts in the final few days before the race. Squatting a new PB 2 days out will only create a wonderful level of DOMS.

Foam Rolling & Stretching

  • Before a big race, I opt for a sports massage to relieve any stress or tension. I aim to get booked in on either Wednesday or Thursday. I find my legs take a few days to recover from a massage so getting one the day before isn’t the wisest idea. (This is only my opinion!)
  • Stretching and foam rolling on top of this will help ensure you’re in peak physical condition on race day. With no niggles in sight to set you on the wrong foot before you’ve even crossed the start line.

Race Strategy

  • Do you have a finish time in mind? If yes, do you know what pace you have to run per km or mile to achieve this?
  • I think it’s really important to have a race strategy of some form, even if your strategy is simply to complete the distance, have fun, or score a PB. If you know what you’re setting out to do before the race starts, you’re more than likely to stick with your plan.
  • If it’s your first half marathon, then look over your long run data and work out the average pace you’ve been running, aim for this and try to keep the pace consistent.
  • If you’re going for a PB you will have raced this distance a number of times already. You will know what’s ahead and your strengths and weaknesses within a race.
  • Most of my PB’s have come from a gamble. I usually go off too fast and then have to hang in at the end. Not the wisest of strategies though….
  • The races I enjoy the most are the ones where I pick a pace I know I can run, it’s not comfortable, but I stick with that… I always tell myself I’ll take my foot off the accelerator if I feel it’s too much, but the few times recently, the gamble has paid off and I’ve been able to stick with it till the end. The end is tough, but a PB isn’t called a Personal Best for nothing.
  • Be bold and finish strong!!

Logistics

  • Race logistics are often the biggest thing people gloss over. They focus on the training but not actually the race itself.
    • How do you receive your race number? Is it through the post, or do you have to collect it from an expo before?
    • Where does the race start from and at what time? Always aim to get there at least 1 hour early to factor in any delays and a warm up, plus how can you forget the pre-race selfies?
    • Parking, where can you park, will it be busy? Is it close to the start line, do you have to pay? Again something often overlooked!
    • Travel – if not going by car, how are you getting there and what route do you need to take to get you there on time? You’ll be nervous about the race already, don’t add extra stress in the morning by potentially being late.
    • Supporters – do you have anyone out on the course cheering you on? Make a mental note of where they’ll be? Hand them any nutrition you may need but also have a back-up in-case you don’t get to see them.
    • Prepare for all weather conditions – gloves, sleeves, compression socks. Dress for 10 degrees warmer than what the weather says. It may seem cold on the start line, but you may regret the extra layer 5k in.

There we have it, you’ve got your nutrition locked down, you’re going to catch extra zzz’s to feel relaxed and know exactly where to go in the morning to get you to the start line as smoothly as possible.

It’s also vital to have the right things in your kit bag for all conditions.. Here’s my essential packing list:

  • Race Vest + Number (if already collected)
  • Trusty Sports Bra (Women only)
  • Vaseline (For Men – Bra Substitue)
  • Shorts / Leggings
  • Socks / Compression Socks
  • Trainers – carefully selected to achieve that PB
  • Gloves / Visor / Hat –  preparing for all weather conditions
  • Pre race food/snacks – banana, malt loaf – final energy essentials
  • Body Glide / Plasters – to prevent or help heal any blisters
  • Jumper and Trouser – pre-race to keep warm
  • Old Top/Jumper – to wear just until the start to keep warm
  • Spare underwear / clothes – to change into after the race
  • Flip flops – essential to let your feet breathe after
  • Baby Wipes – to remove the white salty residue off your face
  • Nutrition Shake – post recovery like a boss
  • Water / Electrolytes – hydration is the key
  • Deodorant
  • Headphones
  • Gels
  • Watch
  • Hairbands
  • Safety Pins
  • Money – for your celebratory drink/snacks/meal

Good luck to you everyone running in the Autumn Run 10K and Half Marathon. See you all there!

https://www.big-cow.com/events/